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Starter fail after nearly 3 weeks

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Starter fail after nearly 3 weeks

Hi folks = ]


Quick reason I'm making a new starter: we moved and I unfortunately trusted the wife to handle my old faithful starter whilst she was doing all the kitchen items. The starter got thrown out.


Yes, I should have divorced over it, but to forgive is civilized, and after 20 years invested, she has had to forgive me for a few things, too ; )


Anyways, so here we are, trying to start a new starter. It's not going well. I did the same thing I did last time, but am losing my patience. I am absolutely beyond jonesing for a succulent loaf of Susan's sourdough!


Day 1 was 40g water and 40g KA All Purpose. After about 15 hrs, maybe a few bubbles. Nothing discarded, just added another 40g of each and sat it back on the counter.

Around 12 hours later, quite a few bubbles. Discarded half, added 40g of each again. 12 hrs later, not much different, lot of bubbles, no rise. Discard, replenish.

12 hours later, lots of bubbles still. No discard, nothing added, just stirred it well. 12 hours later, it exploded, more than double. I expected this was leuconostoc. Discard, replenish.

12 hours later, more explosion, same size (what's interesting about this type of 'rise' is that it does not collapse after it peaks; it stays right where it peaked). Discard, replenish.


It died at this point. Well, at least whatever was causing that furious activity around day 3. I discarded and replenished every 12-15 hours for the next 10-12 days. There was always lots of bubbles (thousands of tiny ones, a good handful of larger ones), but never much of a rise. Then, about 4 days ago, it started suddenly rising. I thought A HA! finally! So I've been still faithfully feeding since then, but this starter is NOT right at all... it rises close enough to call it double, but two things: it still does not collapse after peaking, and it smells TERRIBLE. The wife says it smells like an old wet sneaker. I say it smells like a damp and musty pumpkin patch. Neither of these things would I want in bread.


My old starter was so 'regular' in its characteristics. After feeding, it would produce an upward dome as it started climbing the container. After peaking, the dome would flatten, but the height would remain for about 90-180 mins. At that point, the dome would turn down (inward), and the starter would start to collapse in on itself. It also smelled so good, you could almost dip a spoon of it like cookie dough. The current state of my newest starter has not changed now for 4 or 5 days. I feed it, it nearly doubles, it sits right there at that height (no matter how long I leave it after it peaks), and as mentioned, it does not smell right. When stirred down, it also is extremely gooey. There is absolutely no flour structure at all, it's as thick and again as thin as Elmer's Glue.


I have to come to you, the experts ;)


2 days ago, I split the starter at a feeding, and converted half of it to 75% hydration, and am currently maintaining both versions seperately. What should I do here? Do I need to feed more often, like every 6-8 hours when it peaks? Do I need to stop feeding it for maybe 24 hours or more? What will get rid of this gooey environment?



- Keith

jcking's picture


When starting a seed this helps; Pineapple juice, organic flour, small % of wheat or rye, stirring every 3 hours of your waking day. It may be better to start over. If you're in Georgia I'll give you a shot of my starter.


longhorn's picture

Keep stirring and feeding daily. It will almost certainly come around.


clazar123's picture

I have had this happen to an existing starter when it got left out and not fed or fed inconsistently. The cheesey,sneaker odor and the sudden thinning out of the starter were characterisitc. It does the same thing to a loaf.Stir it up,thiick batter consistency and by the time it rose, it was kind of runny. Enzymes running amuk.I believe you have an overgrowth of an undesirable beastie that will not raise bread for you.

If this was an established starter, I'd say try and rescue it. The good guys are in there somewhere,hiding in the corner. But since this never had any track record of being useful, I'd say start over.

You didn't mention whether you did this but when you start your starter,stir it several times daily rather vigorously. It seems to make it bubble faster. I don't worry too much about the flour/water ratios when I first start it.I just stir 2 tbsp flour and enough water to make a thick pancake batter consistency in a small jar I can cover with a coffee filter so it doesn't dry out..Stir several times daily for several days. When I see consistent bubbles, then start the discard and feed process twice a day (maybe 2 tsp flour per feeding). ANy hootch formation meansfeed it more often. I had one batch that needed 4 x/day feeding when it first started. I've never had any problem starting a starter and it usually is max 2 weeks from start to bake.Helps to keep it above 70F (top of the refrigerator or by the computer).When you are satisfied it is consistently rising after a feed, then start measuring your amounts and get it to the hydration  and volume you want.

 I've never done the pineapple juice technique but people here swear by it. It acidifies the starter to discourage nasty beasties from growing-such as the cheesy smelling type. Just make sure to semi-sterilize your jar by boiling some water in it in the microwave.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Thank you for the comments so far; I have absorbed them and will consider options.


One question for the Pineapple juice folks... Well, make that three ; )

I have a can of Dole chunked pinapple, can I use that juice, or does it have to be specifically 100% pinapple juice? Does this work with an existing immature starter, or do I have to start over? And finally, can I use a proportion of it along with water, or does it have to be 100% juice with the flour? Some 'Pinapple Juice Starter for Dummies' content, specific to my situation, would be helpful to me.


As it stands now, I pitched the 100% batch. I can easily convert a portion of the 75% back to 100% at any time. I also started a new batch which is only about 7 hours into its incubation. I will keep this thread updated, and any other contributions are appreciated! Clazar: yes, the consistency is very alarming, and indeed even the smallest of boules wouldn't be able to hold its shape. The consistency characteristics is what I thought might draw someone in who has dealt with this before.


Again, I thank you all.. and I press forward = )


- Keith

jcking's picture


The canned pineapple juice should be okay. It keeps the bad bacteria at bay, plus it adds a sall amount of sugar. Adding it now would be okay.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

or sugar water.  Unsweetened juice is the preference.  One can also use unsweetened orange juice  or toss water with an inch of sliced up rhubarb (it has a very low pH).  

I met a whole wheat starter that stunk like sweaty sport shoes/socks but it made great bread.  His name was Sir stinks-a-lot and he lived up to his reputation. (I dried him and he's in my cupboard.)

I can only add that if you add a variety of different flours, you may come out with a balance...  a little rye, wheat or smuggle in some others. sometimes whole crushed grains improve the aroma.